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Quest for Fire still burns

24 Jun


According to J. -H. Rosny’s 1911 book, La Guerre du feu (Quest for Fire) the possession of this classical element had the capacity to create a power system among early humans. Director Jean-Jacques Annaud successfully directs Gérard Brach’s adaptation into humankind’s use and misuse of fire. Although, some of the scenes are hokey and historically inaccurate, I believe this is an underrated film that for its time did something very important for cinema. It was an experimental film that asked audiences to accept a series of believable grunts and snorts as a form of communication between primitive cultures, as well as embrace unrecognizable and unknown actors. I think it succeeded on both fronts and the film’s meaning still resonates today compared to most films on the subject that have paled in comparison (The Clan of the Cave Bear), simply failed miserable (10,000 B.C.), or have lampooned early mankind (Encino Man). Quest for Fire still burns.


Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: N/A

The Impossible is an emotional journey

21 Jun


The Impossible is based on a true story about a family caught in the middle of the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami devastation.  Director Juan Bayona’s storytelling brings this unreal event to a perspective that is rarely capture in a film. The personal moments between the characters are unforgettable and film’s emotional impact is long-lasting. Bayona balances  the story with strategic special effects and the choice to film sequences in real water allowed the cast to shine through and give some of the best performances of 2012. Watts garnered most of the attention with several nominations, but many would agree this little film showcased a formidable Ewan McGregor. Someone we have not seen for some time. Also, Tom Holland as Lucas (12-year-old) charisma and talent make audiences take note of great things to come from this young actor.


Adam’s Grade: B

Chuck’s Grade: N/A

Day of the Falcon

13 Jun


Director Jean-Jacques Annaud has made some of the most interesting adaptations to date, but his interpretation of Hans Ruesch’s novel,  South of the Heart: A Novel of Modern Arabia slips through his fingers like a person trying to hold a handful of sand. The story itself is entertaining, but its 2 hour and 5 minute run time is exhausting like the book’s original title  and the new title doesn’t make sense when everything plays out. My biggest complaints is the poor acting, unimaginative cinematography and the use of non-Arabian actors in the lead roles. I could not resist thinking of John Wayne playing Genghis Khan when I saw Antonio Banderas as Emir Nesib, Mark Strong as Sultan Amar and Freida Pinto as Princess Leyla (even though she is the most gorgeous woman on the planet). Wayne’s performance still bothers me to this day and I confident that Banderas’ role will do the same.


Chuck’s Grade: D

Adam’s Grade: N/A

Nuit Blanche (short film) breaks through

8 Jun


Director Arev Manoukian captures a moment in time that all hopeless romantics can appreciate. His black and white homage to finding love on the streets in Paris at night is a beautifully put together short film. The combination of slow-motion computer generated images and a powerful instrumental ballad smash the conventional approach to a love story with an amazing sequence between two strangers caught up in a special moment. Manoukian does not need words to communicate the power of attraction. His visual metaphors are long-lasting even though his film is over in four minutes.


Chuck’s Grade: A

Adam’s Grade: A

Life of Pi

6 Jun


Ang Lee has done something most directors are incapable of doing. He took one of the popular and beloved books and turned it into an amazing film. The film, Life of Pi does the original source justice. Lee, similar to the story, makes the impossible believable with the use of adept computer effects that create the most life like beasts ever seen on the big screen while at the same time making sure the story stays at the forefront of the drama. He is simply the most diverse directer working today. Every project is another challenge he conquers. Lee is a tiger among young men and his film, Life of Pi makes everyone a believer in his Oscar award winning talent. If you are not, then you will be by the end of the film.


Chuck’s Grade: A

Adam’s Grade: B+

Ronan’s Escape (short film) forces audiences to think about change

25 May


Bullying is a hot-topic issue that has received considerable attention from the film community in the last couple of years. A. J. Carter writes and directs one of the most powerful short films on the subject by allowing the actions to speak for itself. He does not pull any punches and presents an accurate depiction of young people targeting one of their classmate, as well as the potential impact it can have on its victim.

Ronan is a 14 year-old boy who has been labeled a “loser” by his peers. He attempts to persevere through the physical and mental abuse, but finds himself frustrated, embarrassed, hurt, and alone. Carter storytelling is more complex than the sparse words he uses throughout the film. He allows audiences to witness the behavior and to think about their potential role and responsibility when it comes to treating others with respect. Ronan’s Escape is a thought provoking short that forces audiences to think about change.


Chuck’s Grade: A

Adam’s Grade: N/A

Interview with a Hitman is interrupted

13 May


I used to love the stone cold killer movies where a macho lead actor would shoot his way through the film, but many of these films would try to soften the lead character when it came to affairs of the heart. Interview with a Hitman is no different. Everything is going great, until he meets the girl, but like the film we must start at the beginning. Viktor is a young boy that gains employment as a Romanian hitman after the mob kills his father. Unlike other films, Viktor is perfectly fine with his father’s death because he lacks emotion and compassion of any kind, which makes him the most respected and feared killer eastern Europe. The adult version of Viktor (Luke Goss) is perfect for the part. His high cheek bones and cold eyes intimidate the camera. My problem lies with the execution of the interview and his relationship with Bethesda (Caroline Tillette). Both feel like an interruption.


Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: N/A

Strangers (short film)

11 May


Guy Nattiv and Erez Tadmor do not need any words to describe the racial tension between Arab and Jewish people. In 2004, the writers/directors put together a seven minute film that reminds everyone of the fear and dislike that exists between these groups. The racial prejudice and religious intolerance is felt between subtle gestures and eye contact as a Jewish man and Arab man sit across from one another on a European subway train. The uncomfortable silence is broken when their mutual distrust is interrupted by a gang of skinheads that wear their over hatred for others on their sleeves. The cast is convincing and the climax gives hope, but in the end, Nattiv and Tadmor remind audiences of the gap between the two sides. A powerful film that will lead to an expanded version a couple of years later, but these seven minutes capture the moment and the message.


Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: N/A

R’ha (short film) remember the name

4 May


R’ha is a six minute independent film that is taking the internet and Hollywood by storm this year for its amazing cost effective visuals. Writer, director, and animator Kaleb Lechowski has created a science fiction story about an alien race being attacked by its own defense technology. The machines are intent to exterminate its creator from existence. The premise is similar to The Matrix and The Terminator series, but the execution is much different. The film opens with a snake-like pharaoh looking alien being interrogated and tortured by one of the “head” machines. The alien and its overall concept is amazing for having no money and only an assortment of computer programs, such as Maya, Blender, zBrush, Nuke and After Effects to complete the seven month long project. Internet audiences are demanding a full length version and Hollywood will probably pick up this 22 year old’s option to create an extended version. Remember the name, Kaleb Lechowski.


Chuck’s Grade: A+

Adam’s Grade: A

Assault Girls scores points, but not enough

7 Apr


Writer and director Mamoru Oshii creates a different type of science fiction film that I think is still in its infancy phase, but may become a more successful entertainment in the future. Films depicting video game sequences. I understand there are many video game inspired movies, but Oshii’s film is different. The plot is about four characters who appear only in their avatars’ form. They are attempting to get to the game’s next stage. We are never introduced to the real people playing  and the characters’ deaths are only virtual and can be re-upped at will. The film follows three gorgeous and strong female avatars and a lone male trying to defeat a giant sandwhale. Although, the film scores many points for style, it lacks the substance to transcend the story to another level. After the film ended, I felt like I was part of the game, but wish I hadn’t played because I had more important things to do.

Chuck’s Grade: C

Adam’s Grade: N/A